The experiment

Ten years ago today, I started an experiment. I thought to myself,  “I wonder if it’s possible to exercise an hour a day for a whole week without skipping a day.” It turned out that it was. On day eight, I woke up thinking “I wonder if two weeks is possible.” Then thirty days. There was no good reason to stop on day thirty one, nor on day one hundred one, and so on. So here I am, day 3653, with no good reason to stop. But, as I was snowshoeing through my local state park this morning (17 degrees, wind chill something like 5 below) I had good reason to pause.

I paused to think of all the people in my community who have made this possible and even enjoyable. If you are reading this, you are my community, and I thank you even if I don’t mention you by name.

There are so many things I’d have never done without all of you. At first, I exercised alone or with Emmett the Dog. We hiked over 8,000 miles together during his lifetime, nearly all of it during these ten years. He never complained. Not even once. He was always eager to go, even if it was 4 in the morning, or 10:45 at night, 34 degrees, raining and windy. Rest in peace Emmett.

Early on, John Gresh dragged me to the gym during our lunch hour. It’s so much more fun to exercise with someone than alone. Thanks, John! Eventually, we both started new careers, so I was on my own (with Emmett) again for a few years. Lots of hiking in those days. At some point Emmett and I had piece hiked across Connecticut from the sound to the Massachusetts border (and back, because all of our hikes were out and back in those days). Emmett got to eat a container of soft cat food when we finally finished that.

When people hear of my exercise streak, they often ask similar questions. What do you do when you’re sick? Answer: short walks, maybe 15 minutes each, though that’s only happened once, and that was the result of food poisoning. I have been remarkably healthy over the past ten years other than minor ailments which don’t seem to last too long.

The toughest times to keep it up are when I travel, though those circumstances have been the sources of some really amazing experiences. Running with the cross country team on the senior class trip to Washington springs to mind. Of course, there have been some less memorable experiences too, like walking up and down the stairs for an hour in the dorm at UCONN Avery Point, because the dorm doors were locked at 6pm. Poor planning on my part.

So I exercised alone for a long time. Then, a few years ago, a crazy (in a good way) guy I work with, Mike Dalton, sent out an email saying he was doing this event called a Tough Mudder, and was looking for some team mates. I don’t what kind of cra-cra was pent up in my colleagues those days, but twenty-something colleagues and spouses all joined the team for what was the best and worst experience of our lives. I have so many indelible memories from that event, but especially remember running with Andrea Giuliano, Laura Martin, Sherry Banack, Karen Oliva, and Jackie Russell. I’d have never made it without you. I even have (cloudy) memories of training for that thing: running UP the cross country hill with logs on our shoulders. What WERE we thinking? Thanks to Mark O’Donnell, I’ve finished two more Tough Mudders since then. And now, thanks to Karen Moore, I’ll finish another in the fall. (BTW, there is still an article about the first one online: http://www.glcitizen.com/archives/2012/5-18-2012.pdf If you were part of our team, take the time to read that article. There is so much I had forgotten.)

During the training for that first Tough Mudder, my list of exercise companions grew tremendously, and continues to grow, almost daily. I now have a long list of running partners, people who’ve run with once or many times. I appreciate everyone of them, because any mile I run with a friend is an easy one. There are so many of you:  Lisa Lupacchino, Melissa Reynolds, Matt Warner, Cristin Flannery, Mark O’Donnell, Dani King, and Trish Seeley. I also have to thank my running partner Yvonne Lee for  inspiring me to run my first half marathon (two weeks from now), and introducing to so many other crazy running people: Sherri, JR, Jackie, Laura, Gordon, Michelle, etc.

So many other people to thank. Here’s the short list:

  • Hiking partners: Jarad and Mark (with whom I hope to climb most of the highest peaks in CT this year)
  • Matt Warner taught me to jump rope.
  • Yoga partners: Robin (who introduced me to yoga and has been my reliable weekly yoga partner for almost two years now)  and Cris (I’ll never forget 108 sun salutations. Thanks!)
  • Those who never hesitate to celebrate my meager accomplishments: Dani and Trish
  • The people who casually ask me how the streak is going (It means a lot more than you know): Nikki Galvez, Amy Rollins and John Fidler
  • My parents, who have provided me with food, clothing, shelter and encouragement at various critical times in this experiment.
  • Some people who are personal inspirations to me: Mark O, Karen M, Cris F, Dani K and Trish S. I think I’ve told you all why. You are all incredible.
  • And finally my wife and kids. Without their flexibility and tolerance, this would not be possible.

Here’s a short list of things that happened because of this experiment:

  • I’ve lost 60 pounds.
  • I’ve run about 1700 miles.
  • I finished the King of Pain race in Glastonbury.
  • I’ve hiked more than 5000 miles.

How I celebrated 10 years:

  • Yesterday I ran 13.1 miles for the first time in my life.
  • Today I snowshoed for two hours in “blizzard like conditions”. It wasn’t that bad, really.

Things I’ve learned during this experiment:

  • Be kind to yourself and others.
  • This isn’t enough of an excuse to stop.
  • Together is better than alone.
  • I am surrounded by the greatest people ever.

Thank you all.

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